Briefly (probably not), I’ll say, that day… hours before everything occurred, I was working the overnight shift as a TV news video editor for “Today in New York”, NBC’s local, morning news. It was a very slow, boring shift and I had been sitting in my edit bay, cyber-browsing through Amazon.com, making a random “wish list” for myself… four to be exact; I recall this because my friend who escaped and survived the falling Twin Towers of the World Trade Center would later (coincidentally? I think not) buy me everything that was listed on that date for my birthday on September 27th. Finally, after staying 40 minutes beyond my scheduled tour to play on the computer, I left.
Ten minutes later, the first plane would hit.
I was clueless, and took my usual morning stroll home from Rockefeller Plaza, on 49th Street, to my old, studio apartment on the Upper(-Upper) East Side of Manhattan on 106th Street and Lexington Avenue. My only alarm was passing parked cars with radios on, hearing the same somber voice of a man stating that there was a fire near Wall Street.
Two other clues of there being something wrong, that later, would become clear to me were:
- My cell phone kept giving me a busy signal when I tried to dial out, making me think that I had no service (and had forgotten to pay the bill).
- When I grew tired of walking, and decided to take the 86th Street train, the rest of the way home, all service was shut down.
I finally realized what had happened when my little sister, Lori, in Florida at the time, called my home number to find out whether or not I was okay, and said that everybody’s phone lines were busy from all the calls being made and to turn on the TV.
It was so surreal to watch my colleague, Walter Perez, reporting on not one, but two planes hitting the Twin Towers. I was then jolted to watch him instinctively duck for cover as the second build suddenly crashed down behind him… probably only two miles away.
I was numb and in disbelief.
(Later [if not that day, soon after], I’d hear a big “KA-BOOM!” in my apartment building that made my heart drop in my stomach. It was a false alarm, but I’m pretty sure, that was the day that I got my first strand of gray.)
I was spared from the undoubted uproar that took place, back at work; Many colleagues whose shifts were to finish two hours after mine, ended up working double-time or more that day.
My luck quickly ran out as I’d wind up working 13-hour shifts for the ten days in a row that followed. We were all exhausted.
I had the luxury of a dark, private editing room with two computer monitors that when not programmed to view videos, would double as TV screens, showing programs of most stations being fed into the control room. During my downtime, I’d watch the tragedy unfold in front of me with constant coverage of the attacks.
There were always reporter notebook pads laying around my work space and the rest of the station. So, as an outlet for relieving stress, I’d start to doodle little, amateur caricatures of public figures who’d catch my attention while on air. They weren’t the greatest drawings in the world, but were my connection to the events that affected us all.
One hero who stood out to me, but I was too moved by the tragic story to capture him was Father Mychal Judge, a Chaplain of the Fire Department of New York and the first certified fatality of the September 11, 2001 attacks, who was praying for the city and giving last rites to people outside and inside of the North Tower when he was hit in the head by debris and killed¹. The visual of his being carried away by two firefighters and three others broke my heart.
I was haunted by his story and image.
I’ve kept that little notebook pad for the past 10 years, and have always feared that eventually, it would get lost in the shuffle of life. Today though, those scribbles came to mind along with a pseudo-brainstorm to take pictures of them with my iPhone for posterity and safe-keeping, in case the originals finally vanished.
I usually guard my thoughts about that historical day and the hard weeks… years that followed, but wanted to share a snippet of my, literal, view with you, no matter how trivial:
Unfortunately, as I was doing some packing today for my upcoming roadtrip, I discovered that a silly, little Andy Warhol-like, triple-faced sketch (but a favorite) that I did of veteran reporter, Gabe Pressman, has turned up missing… another reason that I’m now happy to “immortalize” my special gems perhaps ~only to me~ in my blog. Hopefully, “Gabe” will pop up, later, so that I can add him to this collection.
I have also saved a “Thank You” card sent to me from the cosmetics department of Clé de Peau of Sacks Fifth Avenue, located next to Rockefeller Plaza; I used to buy my make-up there and encountered a girl, “Love”, who worked in that department, and was trying to find her uncle… missing after the Towers went down. She had given me his picture to add to NBC’s search list that was being aired on TV and posted online, on a continuous basis. Unexpectedly, this card came to me in the mail from Love’s colleagues, writing on her behalf. I don’t know what the results were in locating her uncle, but I was forever touched to receive this for such little assistance:
Forget… how could I do that?
©2011 Heidi Rodney-Nakanishi and ChocolateGeisha Spills the Sake!™ All images are copyrighted by their respective authors. ¹(Source: Wikipedia)